Family Fun Night A.K.A. Parent Date Night
Although our Family Fun Nights have not grown in numbers like Saturday Fun Club days – we still feel the concept and need is there – just on a more limited basis.
With fundraising down…we are only offering 2 this Spring – Saturday, April 9 & Saturday, June 4 – and we have had to (sorry) up the cost a bit to $40/ASD child, $20/Sibling.
We have to give plenty of notice to Staff – so if you are interested in this support – please let us know ASAP so we can start to line them up!
WHY “DATE NIGHT/ME NIGHT”?
With our Board of Directors mainly comprised of Parents with Autistic children, we regularly explore the needs in the Autism Community and have identified Respite as one of the most critical. This has been addressed with the creation of our summer day camp in 2011 and most recently with the Project of Saturday Fun Club respite sessions offered through the Fall, Winter and Spring for ASD children. As our Board continued its mandate, a discussion arose about the high incidence of separation and divorce within families raising a disabled child:
"In 2010, researchers at the Waisman Center, a University Center of Excellence in Disability at the University of Wisconsin, looked at 391 parents of children with autism and 391 similar families with children who did not have a disability. They matched the two groups by age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and the age and gender of the children. Parents in both groups were part of two long-running studies that tracked families for decades. They found that parents of children with autism had a nearly 24% chance of divorce, compared to parents in the other group who divorced about 14% of the time."
The Goal of the Project would be to allow Parents to have a break, an opportunity to re-connect without either the ASD child or siblings to care for - a Date Night for couples OR a Me Night for Single-Parent Families!
From John Gray (Mars Venus):
"As we explored before, there's a higher risk of divorce when you have special needs children. However, it's important to recognize that it is not true for everybody. One suggestion to keep your marriage together is to realize what goes wrong in relationships that fail. We often don't know. Why does it happen? Two people who love each other come together and are committed, have a child, create a family and suddenly, they are divorcing. A big part of this is that children who have special needs require much more attention. Parents focus so much on the child, they forget that it was the two of them who first came together. Everyone is extremely busy and when there is a child with special needs, the demands on your time become really great. Time for the relationship and time for yourself are the first to go. However, this can change if you realize the true importance and great benefit that you and your relationship will get from carving out such time on a regular basis. It is important to create that connection with your partner, to make time for yourselves and your relationship. Just as your child has special needs, so does your relationship. To keep your relationship together, you can't forget that. You need to create time for that. You also need to have time for yourselves. Both men and women need time for themselves, time to be with the children, and time to be together without the children. If you can space out the timing in this way, your chance at having a thriving marriage will be much greater."
We provide the venue with trained, experienced staff that could care for the ASD child and siblings at the same time, so no need to find a babysitter and clean the house to allow Parents to have an evening out.
Children at Risk's Date Night Project will use the the innovation, expertise and strategies of our Summer Camp and Saturday Fun Club Respite Sessions to apply the same principles, activities and opportunities to a twice monthly Respite for severely diagnosed, higher-needs Autistic children and their Siblings.
Children at Risk has again responded to the requests of the Autism Community for additional services by first offering a summer day camp, then Saturday Fun Club Camp. While we still continue to offer services like our Social Skill Groups, Teen Outing-Based Groups, Sibling Workshops and More, the critical need (as identified by our Families) for respite is a priority.
Last year, a family with an ASD child had to resort to leaving their child at government offices to show the lack of services for Respite. After that, Children at Risk participated in a Focus Group that included parents, service providers and other charities to discuss what the needs in the Autism Community were. The highest priority identified was Respite - but just not making more funds available for this - but the need for more Services to be created to offer the Respite.
Many might say that raising children in itself can lead to stress and divorce. But studies of Families raising typically-developing children compared to Families raising children with disabilities have discovered one thing:
"An article from Journal Sentinel's website that explains this well: "Both groups started out with high rates of divorce when children were young, likely because the day-to-day child-care duties exact a heavy toll on marriages. But once children without disabilities grow up, their parents get over the rough patch and start to enjoy their empty nest" [said Sigan Hartley, clinical psychologist at UW's Waisman Center, and a team leader for a research aimed to find out whether parents of children who have autism spectrum disorder split up more than parents of children without disabilities]. "If parents can really survive the first years of marriage when their children are young, their likelihood of divorce steadily declined until, in our sample, virtually no risk by the time a son or daughter was 30″, Hartley said. By contrast, parents dealing with autism continued to have a high divorce rate as their children entered adolescence and adulthood. It's not clear why divorce rates remained high for parents of teenagers and adults with autism. But the group has some theories. "For these parents, they don't get the typical experience of the son or daughter gaining the same level of independence, there's still a high demand for day-to-day responsibilities," she said.
Parents have time to re-charge their batteries and the next day take on the extra parenting duties that are an integral part of raising a child with Autism!